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94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine

On Friday, November 8, 2019, I delivered the following eulogy to honor the memory of a dear and trusted friend.

Sometime in the late fall of 1968 I had my first encounter with Jane Quick in front of Ed Flaig’s Mobil station – at the intersection of 10th and Pine – only a couple of blocks west of here.

That encounter cost me 27 dollars.

Allow me to explain: I was heading to the newly opened Snack Shack, a tiny, alpine-style structure across the street from where the Sonic would eventually move in and put the Shack out of business.  The Snack Shack was best known for its poor students’ budget-conscious menu of unhealthy, greasy meals. Where else could one get a 19 Cent hamburger, a miniscule 19 Cent packet of fries, and 10 Cent cokes?

From 3:30 p.m. until closing, usually around 11:30 p.m., I cooked, served meals at the seven seater eating bar and the takeout window to the side, cleaned, hauled trash, and stocked all the artery clogging lard for the next day’s opening.

Late for work and caught in traffic at the Pine and 10th St. traffic light, I was behind a brand new VW Beetle driven by an attractive petite woman. Perhaps taken by all the large, 1960s psychedelic flower power decals that covered the hub caps and  equally flamboyant yet smaller-sized decals across the side and rear window, I found myself bumper to bumper – directly behind the groovy set of 1960’s trend-setting wheels so popular during that counter culture epoch. Because of oncoming traffic, the hot woman stopped in the middle of the intersection, and turned left as the light changed from yellow to red.

When I pulled into the Snack Shack parking lot just a few minutes later, flashing red lights appeared from nowhere.

Needless to say, my appeal to Judge Luckadoo to waive the 27 dollar running-a-red-light fine found no sympathy. To quote Judy Duvall, that was a lot of 19 Cent burgers, especially, I might add, for someone making 90 Cents per hour. To be exact, this comes out to 142.5 burgers.

At the time I had no idea who that groovy chick was.

Five-and-a-half years after the costly traffic citation Johnny Wink and I would join Ouachita’s English faculty, and Jane Quick would become a lifelong trusted friend, a worthy colleague,  a confidante, a strong advocate for many good causes, and a teacher whose teaching and character were worthy of emulation.

When Jane started her employment at Ouachita back in the 1950’s, she joined an august group of women and, to borrow a phrase, one of Ouachita’s greatest generation of dedicated female faculty and staff. The list includes Evelyn Bowden, Helen Lyon, Virginia Queen,  Frances Elledge, Juanita Barnett, Neno Flaig, Lera Kelly, Francis Crawford, Faye Holliman, Miss Jones, Hazel Goff Carolyn Moffet, Mrs. Martha Black, and, of course, Jane Quick. Claudia Riley, wife of Political Science Chair Bob Riley, was one of Jane’s dearest friends, a friendship that lasted until Claudia passed away, only a few short years ago. After Bob’s death and at 8 a.m. of every single day till the day Claudia passed away, Jane would call Claudia to check on her and her disabled daughter Megan. I have no doubt that Jane’s caring-for-others list was always a long one.

It is fair to say that each of the aforementioned OBU female faculty members played a role not only in paving the way for more women faculty to join the OBU faculty ranks, but also in serving as role models for a bourgeoning number of female faculty across the disciplines.

As Randy, Jane, Connie, and Carol settled in the Phelps Circle community where The Roots, Lindseys, Holts, Nelsons, Coppengers, Esteses, Weatheringtons, Rileys, Wilsons, kings, and Tranthams sank roots in the welcoming neighborhood, strong communal relationships developed.

If the adage that one must be a good friend to have good friends is true, then Jane Quick, known to her grandchildren as G. J., to her many friends as J.Q., and to the Halabys as The Ray of Sunshine, fits this bill perfectly.

True Friendships are based on genuine, meaningful relationships.

Jane took her friendships and her relationships very seriously. I can attest to the following: Jane invested love, kindness, empathy, devotion, compassion, and kind-hearted tenderness in all of her relationships, and she cultivated her friendships as one would cultivate a magnificent prize-winning flower garden, always paying full attention to those with whom she conversed. Wit, humor, sharp quips, and nonverbal emotive facial expressions made for a delightful and rewarding conversation.  Colleague Joe Jeffers states the following: “Jane B. Nimble, as I called her, and I had excellent repartee. She was always upbeat and joyous. Jane brought delight to the world.”

Yesterday Johnny Wink shared the following:

“Jane Quick was my wife’s best friend.  Friday at noon was one of Susan’s favorite hours, for ‘twas the hour when she and Jane regularly ate lunch over a period of many years.I never knew a better person than Jane Quick.  She was sweetness and light.  Calling her colleague was an honor, calling her friend, the deepest of pleasures.”

Local professional photographer Barbara Gillam, a Jane Quick friend to the very end, confided the following:

“I used to tease Jane that she was teaching me how to be a better old lady by always having snacks for your guests, giving your visitor your undivided attention, as though they were the most important person in the world, laughing at everything, especially yourself. Truth be told, loving and being loved by Jane Quick has made me a better person.”

Indeed, Jane knew how to laugh at herself, always turning a faux pas into a humorous anecdote. Such as the time she severed the electric extension cord in half while trimming the bushes, tripping the breaker in the process. Or the time she and Randy were rushing off to St. Louis to be with Carol and Chuck as first grandchild Charley was about to make his debut into the world. In their excitement, that same VW bug, sans the floral patterns, was left, with the driver’s side door wide open and engine running, in the airport’s passenger drop-off area. Oblivious to their blooper, the bug was impounded. Charles Allbright, one of the Arkansas Gazette’s finest columnists, had a field day writing about this howler. Jane and Randy turned the slip-up into a delightfully comedic event and lived to tell it, over and over again.

During her many years of teaching at Ouachita, Jane garnered the distinction of earning a stellar reputation as one of Ouachita’s finest. Committed to making a classroom experience a meaningful and rewarding educational endeavor, Jane invested the same passion and meticulous attention to her students as she did with her countless friends. She knew how to inspire her students to write meaningful prose, how to read, interpret, appreciate and enjoy a piece of literature. For her Poetry, Drama, Short Stories, Novellas, and Novels were not merely required text, but they were also instruments to hone and cultivate one’s critical thinking and aesthetic skills. When learning is made meaningful and relevant, it becomes a resourcefully deep well from which one is able to draw truth and meaning to live an abundant and fulfilling life. Jane poured her love of learning, her love of family, her love for the Creator, her love of colleagues and friends, and, above all, her love for her students, into in that hallowed space, better known as a classroom.

As an example of Jane’s popularity and the respect students accorded her, two weeks ago Elena Skylyadveda Murphy, a former 1992 international student from Uzbekistan, flew from Houston, TX,  to spend the entire day with Jane. Suffice it to say that  seventeen years after having been enlightened by Jane’s wisdom, Elena, her former student, travelled the 450 miles to lavish her mentor with love during her final days.

Having once misplaced my textbook of a text Jane and I were using for a literature class, I borrowed Jane’s book and was astounded at the copious notes, comments, and questions neatly written in all the margins. And yes, elegant short hand, a lost art, was interspersed across the pages. Reading the plethora of comments affirmed what I had already suspected: Jane  paid astute attention to details, and it was very obvious that much planning went into classroom preps, a task she took very seriously and very professionally.

When I first ventured into the world of professional writing in a lingua that I learned as a third foreign language in sixth grade, I sought the help of trusted colleagues Johnny Wink and Jane Quick, whose many comments, meticulous critiquing, editing and encouragement where the anvil on which I learned to hammer out scholarly papers, personal vignettes, and opinion pieces. And after her retirement Jane would invite me to hand deliver printed copies of materials I’d published.

The setting for these visits was more courtly than social. Sometime in the early 70’s Randy and Jane converted their garage into a very cozy family room. A towering native stone fireplace, rough-hewn cedar planks for wall paneling,  a rustic loft, a thick rug, reclining chairs draped with  colorful knitted afghans, art works galore, and brick-bracks created a warm, inviting space into which one was submerged for an hour or two. Within minutes of entering this family sanctuary, one was invited to the kitchen to delight in the partaking of coffee, hot tea, cookies, cake, cheese, peanuts, chips and dips.

And as the family grew, Brick-bracks and art works gave way to family photos of every size and genre.

My fondest memories of Jane Quick can be traced to these visits of cherished moments that continue to sustain me even as I speak. Armed with fresh homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and a jar of Halabys Homemade Heavenly Honey harvested from my beehives, summer visits were a favorite pastime.

Traditionally hearths are associated with warmth and, as one etymologist observed, the Latin term focus and hearth are somewhat synonymous, thus connoting a point of convergence for the family unit, and, by extension, making the hearth the epicenter of a home, that intimate setting  where  family and friends congregate not only for physical warmth, but also for  communal interactions that help form and sustain familial bonds during celebratory occasions and throughout every single day of the year.

A raised stone hearth with comfortable space for 4 people was that inner sanctum where Randy, Jane, Connie, Carol, and eventually son-in-law Dr. Chuck Lane, grandchildren Charley and Catie, and great-grand-children Joshua, Nathan and Timothy would sit to warm themselves on cold days and, throughout the year, to laugh, and to occasionally cry.  Catherine Crawford’s observation that for Jane “every challenging situation was met with humor” attests to Jane’s poise, grace, stoicism, and resilience, that unique strength of exhibiting grace under fire.

Never, over a period of 48 years, did I hear Jane talk about the many challenges and concerns she and Randy encountered while tending to Connie’s needs. During Randy’s illness and confinement during the last three years of his life, Jane patiently and faithfully tended to his needs as he lay on a bed in that same sacred space; she’d cuddle him, read to him, crack jokes, sing to him, feed him, administer his medicine, all the time drawing on that strength of hers, a strength that knew no bounds.

I am told that over a period of time Randy spent hours writing love notes in Jane’s favorite books – on index cards or on the faded pages. These were tender love notes and aphorisms she’d discover after Randy’s death. Even death dare not sever the I Dos promised 63 years earlier. This was certainly a marriage made in heaven, a marriage that survived adversity, and a love story written for the ages.

One day not too long after Randy’s death Jane confided the following: “I hope the Good Lord grants me enough years to take care of Connie.” Her wish was granted; Jane Quick and her devoted daughter,  Carol, with loving support from Chuck, were the rock upon which Jane leaned to make the daily visits to Connie’s apartment, to doctor’s appointments, to the pharmacy, and so much more.

And earlier this year, plucked too soon from our midst, Jane, Chuck, Charley, Catie, Joshua, Nathan, and Timothy lost a loving daughter, a praiseworthy wife, an adoring mother, and an archetypal grandmother.

Last week I told Chuck the following:  “Chuck, you’ve been a first class son-in-law, first by loving Jane’s daughter, then by inviting her into your home to live with you and Carol, the, after losing her daughter, by honoring her during the last few months of her life, lavishing her with your genuine love and tender care. You have been a very good son to Jane.” To which Chuck answered: “Jane has been a very good mother to me.”

J.Q., while you’ve departed, you will continue to cast rays of sunshine, Far and Near.

Jane was the poster girl for the French phrase Joie de vivre, a locution that describes persons who derive exuberant enjoyment for life. And all who knew her will agree that she was the epitome of joyful zest, a true ambassador of the human spirit triumphant, a beacon of light, hope, and inspiration.

Dear Friend close to my heart: You will be sorely missed. May you rest in Peace sweet, gentle, and genteel Jane.

******

Dr. Chuck Lane opened his remarks about his mother-in-law, Jane Quick, by stating the following: “Raouf, I will pay you back the $27. The same VW car with the decals still on, is parked in my yard.  I will pay you the $27 to take it off the yard.”

Temptation has never been stronger.

 

More articles by:

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist. halabys7181@outlook.com

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